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iA Cast iA Cast Weekly

#iACast 122 – Busting Myths About Aira

Show Description

On this episode Aleeha, Michael, Jason, Jeff, Scott, Chelsea, Meaghan and Sarah debunk many of the myths about Aira.

News

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MacBook lineup likely seeing more updates this fall following Pro refresh

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Seeing On Your Own Schedule – My Experiences as an Aira Back to School Recipient

When Aira originally gained popularity among the blind community, I glossed over the posts in my Facebook news feed and emails concerning the product.  I had been living on my own for a while, I was cooking my own meals and I had good travel skills.  If I needed to read the instructions for a box of food, or adjust my thermostat, I could just call Bee My Eyes, a free service that connects blind people in need of visual information to a wide network of volunteers twenty-four hours a day.  It was free and it worked.  I did not start to pay attention to Aira until a close friend of mine got the Back To School scholarship.  She is a competent and very independent blind person.  When she thought she could benefit from it, I wondered how it would benefit me.

Fast forward a few months to the 2018 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, a site access location for Aira.  During the convention, I could take Aira for a test drive at no cost to me.  I fondly remember arriving to my hotel room, and noticing that it was much too hot for my liking, I decided to give Aira the old college try.  After setting up a free account, I called an agent for the first time.  After answering a few questions about myself, and listening to the disclaimer that Aira sessions would be terminated if I was not using my mobility tool outside my living arrangement and that agents could not tell me if a situation was safe, I completed my first task.  The agent helped me set my thermostat.  That first call got me hooked.  The agent I interacted with was focussed on me.  She was happy and energetic.  At that point in time, she was focussed on me and only me.  She knew how to help me orient my phone so she could see the thermostat clearly, and best of all, in a matter of seconds, my room began to cool off and I was comfortable.  Although the volunteers at Bee My Eyes want to help, they lack the professional training that Aira provides to their staff, and since the volunteers are not being paid, they are not on call like Aira staff.  They may be in the middle of something when they pick up your call.

In August of 2018, I applied and was accepted to the Back To School program, where I received 200 Aira minutes a month; as well as a pair of Horizon glasses.  Although I did not think the glasses looked good, I put them on anyway, and discovered a whole new world.

Aira could do so much more than Be My Eyes.  Agents engaged in several TeamViewer sessions, which enabled me to ensure that assignments with formatting requirements were presentable and enabled me to access inaccessible assignments and websites on my own terms.  I no longer had to schedule readers and have a rigid agenda for completing assignments.  My school life was on my own terms.

My use of Aira was not limited to academics.  One of the most thrilling experiences with Aira was having an agent describe Disney’s fireworks display from the fourteenth floor observation deck of Disney’s Contemporary Resort.  I can see fireworks, but they only look like colorful lights to me, and it has to be dark for me to see them.  I have discovered that I can see the fireworks from that location; however, Aira’s description proved to me that I was missing a lot.  I had no idea that Disney made all kinds of designs with their fireworks, and how vivid the colors were.  The agent who described the fireworks was amazing!  She was energetic throughout the show, and she maintained my attention the whole time.  I knew what colors the fireworks were, that they were making stars and other designs in the sky, and that Cinderella’s castle was the focal point of the display.  I practically had tears in my eyes throughout her description.  Family and friends are always willing to describe things for me, but they want to enjoy the display and take pictures too.  Aira’s descriptions are top-of-the-line.

I would encourage anyone to give Aira a try.  Locations such as many major airports, Walgreens, and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) are only a few site access locations where anyone can try Aira for free.  In addition, both the American Counsel of the Blind and National Federation of the Blind state and national conventions are site access locations, and Aira representatives are available so customers can ask questions, test drive the glasses, and sign up if they want to.

 

Pricing

For many people Aira’s plans may be too costly, and I am happy to say that there are a lot of options to get Aira funded.  Aira has a $29-per-month plan which offers 30 minutes per month.  In addition, Aira is a registered vender for Vocational Rehab services in many states.  A veteran can get Aira through their Veteran’s Affairs counselor. Employers can purchase blocks of minutes for employees, and more colleges and universities are becoming site access locations.  The Back To School Program is also another option for students.  Enrollment begins in mid to late August, and the application process is quite simple.

Conclusion

An important thing to remember about Aira is that it does not substitute solid travel, technology, and daily living skills.  The product is simply available to provide visual information, but in all situations, the explorer drives the session.  An agent will not tell you when it is safe to cross the street, nor will they complete your homework for you.  They will help you navigate to a destination and tell you when the light is in your favor if they can see it, and they are happy to help you format a document, but you have to be the one to tell them what to click on, and where you want things to be positioned in a document.  With Aira in your toolbox, you will no longer have to wait on someone to help you with the visual aspects of life, you can get assistance at the touch of a button.

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iA Cast iA Cast Weekly

#iACast 89 – Privacy In Technology

On this episode of the iACast, Michael, Aleeha, Jason, Scott, Allison, and Meaghan discuss privacy concerns related to the use of technology. We also discuss computer hygiene and other tips to help us all stay safe in today’s digital world.

In the news this week,

Our add this week features iAccessibility’s Web hosting/development services. For more information on these offerings, please email iaccessibility@iaccessibbility.net

For our picks this week,

Feel free to follow us on twitter at iAccessibility1. You can also support the show by ggoing to patreon.com/iacastt

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iA Cast

#iACast Special – What’s New With Aira?

In this #iACast special, Aleeha interviews Greg from Aira at the 2018 National Federation of the Blind convention in Orlando. Topics include: the availability of the first 200 pairs of Horizon glasses, the release of Aira messages, Aira’s partnership with VFO, Aira Live, the partnership with Intuit (makers of QuickBooks software), and Aira’s new feedback websites.

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iA Cast

#iACast CSUN 2018-Aira

In this special #iACast, recorded at CSUN 2018, Michael talks with Paul from Aira about the new Horizon Glasses

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Aira From a Low Vision Perspective

Aira is a relatively new service that helps the blind navigate their environment and complete tasks by matching them with a trained agent. It has caused quite the stir in the blindness community, and we have heard a lot of success stories from Aira users who have utilized the service to accomplish a variety of tasks.  With this in mind, I think it is time for us to find out if Aira is useful for those with low vision. For the purpose of this article, low vision refers to those with severe vision loss, but have enough vision to function with the use of a cane or guide dog, read a computer screen with magnification, and see an environment to know what is around them.

What is Aira

First, lets take a look at what it is and what it isn’t. Aira is a service that matches a person who is low vision or totally blind to a trained agent to complete tasks, or to assist with navigation-based needs. Aira is not the first service like this, but it is the first to build such a solution that works with eyewear. They started with Google Glass, and now offer their own glasses solution.

Keep in mind that Aira is a tool to enhance your independence. It will not replace your mobility tool, and a cane or guide dog will be necessary for safe navigation with the service. Also, Aira will not replace your computer or other office tools that are needed to complete tasks.

What Makes Aira Different?

Aira agents are extensively trained so explorers can complete tasks effectively. The explorer can control how much or how little information they receive from the agent. In my experience, the agents do a good job at determining how much information I need at each given time.

Drawbacks of Aira

Aira is an amazing service, but it has some drawbacks. The most significant drawback of Aira is the price. Plans start at $89 a month in the United States, and this plan gives you 100 minutes of use. Other plans are offered with more minutes; however, each plan gets more expensive as you go. Keep in mind that you are paying for Aira hardware and for minutes each month. The other drawback, in my opinion, is the current hardware itself. The glasses require a MIFI device to connect everything to your phone, and both the glasses and MIFI have to be charged for the user to use the glasses. Aira hopes to make this a more seamless experience with the unveiling of their new Horizon glasses.  With that said, no solution is perfect, and I think that Aira has gone a long way to make a solution that is easy for people to use. The company hopes to make the service cheaper for explorers by adding site access to several places of importance.

Aira From a Low Vision Perspective

I have not met many explorers who have some sight, and this was my reasoning for writing about Aira from this perspective. I have had 20/800 vision all of my life, and assistive technology has been an integral part of my success.  I personally believed that one should use technology  that does not involve human interaction before the use of a service like Be My Eyes or Aira; however, after one week with Aira, I have changed my mind.

While working in the world of rehabilitation, I have found that people become dependent on their technology working a certain way. When the technology no longer works for the user, a person can’t adapt to the changes in technology, and that person is not able to stay competitive in the world of employment.

Aira does not replace your technology, and it is not a piece of technology which you will become dependent on. I like to look at Aira as the bridge to the visual world. Agents can easily and quickly give you the information you need to complete a task, or help you find your way without making you dependent on the service. In other words, Aira is just another tool in your toolbox.

As a low-vision explorer, Aira has enabled me to quickly complete tasks like identifying luggage quickly from a trip, verifying that clothes match for a business outing, or identifying which car is my Lyft. While these are all things that a person can do without the use of the glasses, I find that these tasks can be completed faster and more efficiently with an agent that is describing things to you.

One advantage that Aira gives to all explorers is agents learn how to work with you more efficiently as you use the service. Each time you use Aira, agents make notes on your profile so that other agents can have information available on how to help you get things done more effectively. I have found that the agents know that I am low vision based on my profile, and we are easily able to work together to get a task done. I connected to one agent while attempting to find bath soap at a convenience store. The agent pointed me in the direction of the brand I was looking for. I then put my hand on the box and the agent could tell me what variant the soap was. So while I could see the box and tell that it was the right brand once we found the brand, the agent could then direct me to find the soap I was looking for without saying what I needed or giving to much information.

Photography is a hobby of mine, and Aira can even help with this.  Agents can take pictures of whatever the glasses or your phone sees.  The agent  can help get all possible faces in the frame. Agents can also assist with selfies. Once a picture is taken, the Aira agent can email you the picture so you can save it to your camera roll.

You can also use Aira to find hard-to-see items. An example of this could be if you have an item that blends in to its surroundings. You can describe the item to the Aira agent, and they can attempt to find that item.

Conclusion

Aira has proven itself to be a valuable tool for any blind or low-vision person’s  toolbox. As I said earlier, I tried not to like this service as I believe that there should be technology to do what Aira does. I also felt that the price point per month was a bit expensive, but the truth is that Aira is worth every penny. The reason I say that is because of how trained the agents are. I always feel like the agents are there to help you get a task complete as quickly and efficiently as possible, while still being personable to each explorer.

I would like to challenge each and every one of you who are blind or low vision that reads this article to check everything out at Aira Io, and learn about this service. Go in to this experience with an open mind, and I think you will quickly find out how you can make even the basic Aira plan a part of your toolbox and be more effective and productive at your day to day tasks. We will soon have more Aira related articles, and the iACast network will soon feature an interview from Aira, and a dedicated podcast episode explaining how the service works.

Aira.io Website

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iA Cast

#iACast 71 Getting Started with Web Design

On this episode of the iA Cast, Aleeha, Michael, and Scott discuss the following topics.

  • Updates after HomePod unboxing. Everyone wants one.
  • We discuss the Aira Super Bowl description through YouTube and the conference call
  • Web design and development is a career accessible to everyone. During this episode, we talk about how to get started.
    • Buying a domain is the first place to start. Some good domain registrars are hover.com, and namecheap.com
    • Hosting is the next option to consider. We discussed BlueHost, GoDaddy, and Linode
    • You can code a website by hand using text editors like notepad, Notepad++ or CotEditor for Mac. These all work with screen readers. There are others like Visual Studio, Xcode, and others.
    • Another method providing a website is through a content management system like WordPress or Drupal.
    • There are other services that provide all of these options like Wix, and SqureSpace, but wordpress.com is the most accessible of the options.

iAccessibility offers training Services if you would like to learn to build a website by hand. Check our services page for more information.

Email us at feedback@iaccessibility.net or use the hashtag #iACast to ask questions or leave feedback on this episode.